Ten years after China's military opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators near Tiananmen Square, parents, protesters and ordinary citizens held private vigils to mourn those who were killed.
In the eastern city of Hangzhou on Thursday, dozens of people, some wearing white mourning flowers, gathered in a park to commemorate June 4, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement. Three people were detained when the crowd was dispersed by police, it said.
Government efforts to prevent public protests in Beijing, including the detention of dissidents, succeeded and the capital was quiet today. But in conversations around the city, Beijing citizens said a relentless government propaganda effort to justify the army crackdown was meeting with less success.
"It has been 10 years, and the government is still sticking to its position that it took the necessary measures to maintain economic stability and social prosperity. We can't understand this," said Zhou Shuzhuang, whose son was killed about 1 a.m. on June 4. The government reiterated its stance Thursday.
Zhou and other family members of those killed visited cemeteries after daybreak to pay their respects. Relatives gathered and lit candles at their homes to mark the anniversary. There was a heavy police presence throughout the city at midday, and plainclothes agents on bicycles kept watch near the square.
The massive student-led demonstrations, joined by millions of Beijing citizens, riveted the capital for seven weeks in spring 1989. Protesters refused government orders to leave Tiananmen Square, despite the declaration of martial law on May 20. Hundreds were killed as the army shot its way to the center of Beijing.
Qiu Huiyang was a 19-year-old university student when he joined the protests. Standing on the ornate Tiananmen gate, known for its huge portrait of Mao Zedong, Qiu said it was unsettling to think about the events of a decade ago.
"Looking out there makes me feel how young I was then. I would never have done that today," he said. "Politics is such a filthy thing. I just had a child, and I hope he never has anything at all to do with politics."
Human rights groups say hundreds of protesters remain jailed or in labor camps. Li Hai, a Beijing-based dissident who tried to gather the names of everyone arrested because of the demonstrations, was himself given a nine-year sentence for his efforts in 1995.
His mother, Gong Liwen, has championed her son's cause, but she spent this year's Tiananmen anniversary caring for Li's father, who has recently been diagnosed with a heart ailment. She said she was vague with her son when she visited him Monday in prison.
"I didn't dare tell him how severe his father's illness is," Gong said. "He would be worried, and he can't do anything to help him."
CAPTION: Chinese soldiers undergo inspection before patrolling Tiananmen Square Thursday. Troops prevented public commemorations on the 10th anniversary of the democracy protests that left hundreds dead.
CAPTION: Chinese soldiers stand guard in front of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square to discourage public commemorations of the democracy protests that left hundreds dead 10 years ago.